Students are set to return to the Gujarat Vidyapith campus this week, as the 101-year-old institution set up by Mahatma Gandhi finally lifts the restrictions imposed by the Covid pandemic and goes fully offline. In an exclusive interview with VO!, Gujarat Vidayapith vice-chancellor Rajendra Khimani talks about the importance of campus life, redevelopment, the relevance of Gandhi today:
VO!: Why did you postpone re-opening the campus till now?
Khimani: Even after the government’s decision to allow offline education, many parents were not prepared to send their children back. We are a 100 per cent residential campus, and most of our students are from small towns and rural areas of Gujarat. Till now, we functioned with 50 per cent of students on campus and 50 per cent learning online. From 15 November, we are set to go 100 per cent offline.
VO!: What difference will moving back to campus make to the quality of learning?
Khimani: Our approach to education is different from other universities in that we stress a Gandhian way of life. This can be best learnt from living on the campus. Gujarat Vidyapith has two campuses, in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, which houses around 2400 students. Both campuses are run by the student community. Right from buying groceries for the canteen to cleaning the campus and their hostels, the students do everything. Gandhiji believed in the dignity of labour and we reinforce this idea on campus. We award Swabhiman Fellowships to needy students whereby they are paid for the labour they perform on the campus, at the rate of Rs 40 per hour. We have an annual grant of Rs 20 lakh for this fellowship.
VO!: How receptive are today’s generation to Gandhian philosophy?
Khimani: It is not always easy. Most of them only see education as a way to get a job. But Gandhiji’s ideas of simple living are very relevant today when everyone is talking about sustainability. We believe in a minimal lifestyle. The campus does not any air-conditioning. But our buildings have been created to ensure proper ventilation. Plastic is banned on campus. Garbage collected on campus is used to make fertilizer for our own use. Our students in the microbiology department make cultures to speed up the process. We have installed a water harvesting plant and beginning next year, we will store 12 lac litres of water in tanks.
VO!: How have the campus placements been this year?
Khimani: We prefer not to stress on placement. We believe in education for its own sake. Having said that, we have had a program in computer science for the past 30 years, which is taught in Gujarati. Our graduates are to be found all across the world, in the best organisations.
VO!: What has been the intake for the Vidyapith’s foreign students program?
The foreign students’ programme will begin again in 2022, after a two-year break.
VO!: What are your views on the redevelopment of Sabarmati Ashram?
Khimani: Redevelopment takes place, in some way or another. The Gujarat Vidyapith campus in Ahmedabad is 98 years old has also gone through many renovations. You have to restore old buildings if they are to function.